NASA USIP: Characterization of 3D Printing Processes under Microgravity Conditions

Grants and Contracts Details


The objective is to characterize advanced 3D printing processes under microgravity conditions by building a compact 3D metal printer based on electron beam or laser in the Rapid Prototype Center at the University of Louisville. Melting pool characterization, material characterization and mechanical property testing will be performed. Melting pool morphology evaluation will be accomplished via single-track material deposition with various process parameters corresponding to different thermal input conditions. Morphologies of solidified cross sections such as width, height and depth of penetration will be measured under optical microscope and compared against computer simulations. A high-speed IR camera will capture real-time evolution of melting pool morphology and temperatures. Comparison between singletrack experimental results and simulation results will calibrate models and guide microgravity investigations. Experiments in microgravity will be conducted on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle to determine the effects of microgravity on the 3D printing process. Comparisons will be made between the 1-g and microgravity conditions. Measured results under microgravity will also be compared with the simulation results. Undergraduate student participants will benefit from the hands-on experience of developing and launching a successful flight experiment, working with NASA for integration and pre-flight testing. They will learn from expert faculty and staff who are leading researchers in computational modeling and 3D printing. Two sub-teams will focus on the experiment (with UL Rapid Prototype Center) and on simulation (with the UL Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory), respectively. We also plan to send student interns to NASA centers and companies such as Blue Origin.
Effective start/end date6/22/169/30/19


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $200,000.00


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